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“More important than the utilitarian function of filling job vacancies, though, is the pedagogical value inherent in coding.”
“21st century learning” – it’s one of the hottest terms in education. The elements range from student-centered learning and accountability to technology and real-world application. Chief among the tenets is that students must be prepared for the collaborative, technology-rich workforce.
But some of these skills can be tough to come by. Survey information suggests that nine out of 10 U.S. schools do not teach computer programming. This is especially alarming considering the growth of the field – estimates indicate nearly 1.4 million jobs will open over the next decade with only 400,000 graduates prepared to fill them.
More than the utilitarian function of filling job vacancies, though, is the pedagogical value inherent in coding. Learning computer coding is non-subject specific, lending itself to interdisciplinary lessons that integrate math, science, English, art and a variety of other subjects. Students simultaneously balance logical reasoning, creativity and problem solving in real-world scenarios.
Online coding tutorials also often employ the touted aspects of game-based learning. Studies demonstrate that many students learn better when goals can be seen as natural steps towards completing a goal rather than isolated, individual pieces of information.
5 Coding Resources for Classrooms and Courses
The following resources should give teachers a great starting point for integrating code into the classroom. They are designed specifically to engage students with the processes of coding, requiring the teacher to be a facilitator and learner rather than a master coder. For the most part, tutorials have varying skill levels, so all students are working towards something uniquely challenging to them.
Made with Code
Made with Code, established by Google, is a fantastic introductory tool. The levels range from beginner to difficult and can start with a very simplistic understanding of what code is (object, command and quality/quantity).
One appeal of Made with Code is that the tools are especially well adapted to get females interested in computer sciences. While many of the site’s projects would be acceptable for a unisex audience, the challenges are designed by women who specifically focus on making coding appealing for young girls.
Tynker’s Free Hour of Code site has materials mainly geared towards elementary and middle school students, though it does offer some upper-level challenges as well. Aside from the free tutorials, the site also has challenges that are available for a fee.
One of the real appeals of Tynker is that it nearly always features a game within a game. That is, your character is moving through a larger metagame, and you’re putting together codes to build the game or add a skill that will help your character advance. The coding becomes meaningful not only as a learned skill but also as a way to advance the plot or storyline, making it extremely engaging.
Khan Academy has become a valuable resource for teachers across all subjects. Built around the notion that learning is about mindset rather more than ability, the site has encouraged more than 27 million people to improve their skills in some way or another.
Another project powered by Google, CS-First is a tutorial curriculum designed for middle school students. It teaches coding skills through a variety of engaging topics.
One of CS-First’s most unique features is the range of interests that it covers. While many introductory programming sites focus on game design, CS-First offers instructional programs designed around music, art, sports, storytelling, social media, fashion and friends in addition to the traditional game-design tutorials. It’s a terrific way to introduce an entire class with varying interests to the world of programming.
Bootstrap is designed to integrate computer sciences into the algebra and geometry classroom. Students use skills covered in the curriculum to solve real-world problems. Unlike many other programming tutorials and curricula, Bootstrap is specifically designed to apply to mathematical concepts.
The software and curriculum are free, but parents, teachers and administrators can also pay to attend regional workshops that teach ways to better utilize the software. Bootstrap teachers can purchase additional programming textbooks to use with the software if students complete the entire curriculum.
As a 21st century classroom teacher, remember that you do not need to be the expert in all things. It is okay (and perhaps even beneficial) if students know more than you do about coding. What matters more is that you’re familiar with solid resources so that you can help supplement their interests while still meeting the curricular goals you need to accomplish.
Have you used any other coding resources to teach your students? Tell us about them in the comments section below!